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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Q. Do I need to have gone to a top university? All the best writers seem to have gone to top universities.
I'm not sure that's true. When someone goes to Harvard, you hear about it. When someone goes to the University of Weehawken, they don't always mention it.

I do think as a general thing you should try to go to the best college you can. It's not strictly critical. My grandfather didn't graduate high school and he was pretty smart. He just wrote to a bunch of professors at Harvard and asked each of them for their top ten books. Then he read them. A hundred books later, he knew a lot more than when he started.

But the kinds of connections you can make at Yale are probably going to be more helpful than the kinds you make in Weehawken. The Yalies will tend to wind up at the top of their professions, where they can give you jobs in any major city. The guys in Weehawken are going to tend to stay in Weehawken. When you, being brilliant, leave Weehawken, you leave your alumni network behind.

I do use some of the skills I actually learned in class. English classes were good for learning how to analyze subtext. Computer science classes were good for learning how to write a script top-down.

Oh, and you learn to bulls*** really, really well. You learn how to pass the test without having done all the reading. Since in life you often can't do all the reading (usually because no one has actually written it), that's a key skill.

The other thing you get at a great college that you don't get from reading books is different live perspectives. Books give you fresh perspectives, but they won't argue with you. A great university is full of students who will argue with you and challenge, yea, mock, your perspectives.

But what makes a great writer is observation and analysis of human stories, human experiences, both in real life and as told by great story tellers. You can learn that in real life. You don't need to go to Princeton to do it. Princeton will help you a lot, sure, but there's some self-selection going on there: people who are willing to jump through all the hoops necessary to get into Princeton and pay for it, will tend to jump through all the hoops later in life. If you missed the boat on the Ivies, just make sure you're putting as much effort into your craft -- make sure you're thinking as hard -- as the Ivy guys are, and you'll do fine.

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6 Comments:

As a fellow Yale grad, I made no connections in college suitable for getting a paid writing gig. The alumni network in LA is pretty narrow, and it's not exactly teeming with writers willing to mentor grunts like myself. I'm working as a caption editor right now, which means I'm making less money than everyone with whom I graduated, except the people who are still in grad school, and doing my writing on the side. Just trying to dispell the myth here that people who go to Ivies get everything they ever wanted. That tends to only be true of the people who were gonna get anything they wanted long before they went to college.

By Blogger Little Miss Nomad, at 6:12 PM  

The Yalies will tend to wind up at the top of their professions, where they can give you jobs in any major city

By Blogger jilcov, at 6:16 PM  

Also, I can't spell dispel on the first try. Sigh.

By Blogger Little Miss Nomad, at 6:24 PM  

I learned a lot about the craft of writing in college, but not too much about film. Now that I'm in LA I date a lot of guys who went to film school so I steal their knowledge.

By Blogger Emily Blake, at 12:35 PM  

I was perusing Hollywood exec facebook profiles the other day, and a TON of them went to Ivies.

But writers? Not as much. If you get into an Ivy and can pay for it, I'm sure it'll be great. But if you're sure you want to write for TV or film, you might want to look for a school known for its communications program like USC, NYU, Miami, Ithaca (woo!), SU, Emerson, BU, etc. If it's not in LA, schools with LA semester programs are great too since they will connect you to the industry. Wherever you go, make sure you write a lot, and try to take other kinds of classes so you have things to write about.

Also remember that if you're going to start off as a Hollywood underling, you won't be able to pay off $140,000 in student loans with much ease. Go for scholarships.

By Blogger Amanda, at 9:46 PM  

Joining a top university is not all about screenwriting .It upto the efforts how a students makes up his future..

There are many screenwriting softwares available on the internet by which you may learn effective screen writing and one of them is the plotbot

This Online screenwriting software

Its a great collaborative screenwriting tool. The public projects are a lot of fun, and
the private projects allow people to write together more productively than traditional
screenwriting tools.
It writes screenplays directly in your browser

By Blogger carter, at 10:22 PM  

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